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Zelenskyy Pleads To Congress For More Aid In Address As Biden Issues $800 Million Package

For Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, attire is no longer a concern. His people are, and he’s doing everything he can to gain additional support from the West. Sitting in his frequent simple army green T-shirt, Zelenskyy pleaded with the U.S. Congress on Wednesday for more measures to help stop Russia’s invasion.

Among the requests communicated over livestream include the urging of a no-fly zone over Ukraine, an action that the U.S. and NATO have strongly opposed due to its potential to escalate the conflict onto a greater, worldwide scale.

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“This is a terror that Europe has not seen for 80 years and we are looking for a reply, for an answer, to this terror, from the whole world. Is this a lot to ask for? To create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people, is that too much to ask?” Zelenskyy posed.

Zelenskyy proposed an alternative action that would see fighter jets defending Ukrainian air from Russian attacks, but the Biden administration has also previously ruled out military intervention or the transferring of MiG fighters from Poland for the same reasons as a no-fly zone.

“Aircraft, powerful, strong aviation to protect our people, our freedom, our land. Aircraft that can help Ukraine. You know that they exist, that you have them, but they are on the Earth, not in the Ukrainian sky. They do not defend our people.”

An installation would push boundaries never broken before. As The Conversation notes, it would be the first time the U.S. has ever imposed a no-fly zone during an international conflict, and the first time a world power like Russia has ever been subjected to one.

While governments may feel no-fly zones wouldn’t be worth the risk, citizens disagree. According to a Reuters poll conducted with 831 respondents, 74% of Americans — including majorities of Democrats and Republicans — said the U.S. and NATO should install no-fly zones. Meanwhile, 80% said the U.S. should stop buying Russian oil, and 81% said the U.S. should impose additional sanctions.

Following Zelenskyy’s address, President Biden announced an additional $800 million in military assistance, which includes 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 1,000 Javelin anti-tank missiles, a combined 6,900 arms including 100 grenade launchers, 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition, grenade launchers, and mortar rounds, and 25,000 in gear along with an unspecified amount of drones.

This brings the total amount of aid sent to Kyiv since Biden took office to $2 billion, and $1 billion in the past week. Despite this, U.S. lawmakers have become more and more frustrated with the country’s inability to properly assist Ukraine.

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Last week, Biden signed into law a massive spending bill that would see $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine. That amount includes $6.5 billion for the costs of sending troops and equipment to Eastern Europe, and $6.8 billion to care for refugees — which is now over three million — and to aid allies economically.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and its allies’ sanctions on Russia have proven to be effective. The ruble’s value is now down to 0.010 USD (though up from the past couple weeks), while the Institute of International Finance expects Russia’s economic output to fall by a third in 2022. Russia’s stock market hasn’t seen action in three weeks.

Zelenskyy thanked the U.S. for its care package. In order to relay the devastation Ukraine’s neighbor has caused, a slideshow of pictures showing exploding buildings, civilian casualties, and mass graves was presented. “Russia has attacked not just us, not just our land, not just our cities — it went on a brutal offensive against our values, basic human values,” Zelenskyy said.

Russia Requesting Military And Economic Aid From China, According To US Officials

According to US officials, Russia has asked China for military and economic assistance, including drones, as a part of their unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. The official’s declined to state what exactly China’s response was to the request, but it is known that they did respond.

The news of the request was brought up to White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan during a conversation with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi. Sullivan explained to the media afterwards that providing Russia with support from China would be a “concern.”  

“We also are watching closely to see the extent to which China actually does provide any form of support, material support or economic support, to Russia. It is a concern of ours. And we have communicated to Beijing that we will not stand by and allow any country to compensate Russia for its losses from the economic sanctions,” Sullivan said.

Russia continued its attack to western Ukraine this weekend, firing off missiles near the city of Lviv, and hitting a large military base close to the Polish border. The blasts reportedly killed dozens of people. 

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China claims that it was not asked by Russia for military aid or any other type of assistance. Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in the US, said in a statement, “I’ve never heard of that. The Ukraine situation is indeed disconcerting, China has and will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.

“The high priority now is to prevent the tense situation from escalating or even getting out of control. … China calls for exercising utmost restraint and preventing a massive humanitarian crisis.”

Beijing is currently trying to strike a neutral tone regarding the international conflict. Chinese domestic media coverage has, however, promoted Russian disinformation campaigns and described the war as a “special military operation. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki and other US officials have been critical of Beijing’s response overall. 

“Beijing has seemingly endorsed false Russian claims that the US is developing chemical weapons in Ukraine.”

“Our assessment right now is that China is abiding by the requirements that have been put in place, but we would continue to encourage any country to think a lot about what place they want to — what role they want to play — in history as we all look back,” Psaki said Wednesday.

Sullivan said that the “US has made it clear to Beijing that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale efforts to give the Kremlin a workaround to US sanctions.”

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“We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country anywhere in the world. While the US believes China, in fact, was aware before the invasion took place that Vladimir Putin was planning something, they may not have understood the full extent of it. Because it’s very possible that Putin lied to them the same way that he lied to Europeans and others,” Sullivan explained. 

Sullivan also expressed to the media this weekend that while the “Biden administration is concerned about the possibility of escalation with respect to Putin’s nuclear posture, we have not seen anything that would require us to change our nuclear posture at this time.” 

“We are watching this extremely closely, and obviously, the escalation risk with a nuclear power is severe, and it is a different kind of conflict than other conflicts the American people have seen over the years,” he said, before explaining the administration’s decision to reject Poland’s offer to transfer fighter jets to Ukraine through the US and German air base. 

“The President listened to the assessment of his intelligence community, he listened to the advice of his military commanders, he consulted his NATO allies, and he ultimately determined that the risk-benefit analysis of flying planes from NATO bases into contested airspace over Ukraine did not make sense, was not something that he would authorize.

The US is focused on providing other anti-air systems that could help the Ukrainians make progress in terms of dealing with the threat that is coming from the air from the Russian side,” Sullivan explained.

The national security adviser also reiterated that Russia “would pay a severe price if they chose to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine. Russia’s accusations against Ukraine preparing to deploy chemical weapons is a tell, a tell that they themselves may be preparing to do so and then trying to pin the blame on someone else– that’s a classic page out of the Russian playbook.”